Before Michael ever saw the inside of juvenile lockup, caseworkers recommended he be sent home.
The 13-year-old came from a stable, two-parent home in Columbia. He watched over his three younger siblings, did chores around the house, and enjoyed playing in his youth football league.
Then, he says, he fell in with the wrong group of kids. He was with one of the boys, he says, when they stole another teen's cellphone.
It was Michael's first offense. Juvenile caseworkers thought a letter of apology and counseling made the most sense. His attorney argued that a return home would be the best outcome for everyone.
But a judge disagreed. In 2013, Michael was ordered to...